How is Kyoto known for its Tea Culture?
The kanji of Kyoto 京都 directly translate to "Capital City".
Originally, the capital in Japan is where the emperor lives, and Kyoto was home to the emperors through 794 to 1868. So for over 1000 years, Kyoto was the capital of Japan until the government system was set up in Japan in year 1868, before moving the capital to Edo, modern Tokyo.
Still thought to be the heart of Japan, the name remains and it is now commonly known as the cultural capital of Japan.
Why is Kyoto known as the cultural capital of Japan?
The Heian period (794 to 1185) saw a great flourish in Japanese culture from literature to paintings due to the decline in Chinese influences and the mature of Japanese culture.
As a capital city, it is the central of trade and innovation. For almost 400 years, art and culture grew in Kyoto, and many were still remained in modern days.
One culture that is still popular is the art of Japanese tea garden and its tea ceremony.
Home to the oldest Tea plantation in Japan
Tea cultivation started in Kyoto since 1191 when a Buddhist monk brought tea seeds from China to Japan and planted them around Kosan-ji temple, north of Kyoto city. It is the oldest tea field in Japan and even today, tea is grown there and you can visit the humble plot of tea plantation in the temple.
Many tea plantations follows, paying homage to Kosan-ji in recognition of this heritage.
The start of Tea ceremony
It was not until the 15th - 16th centuries that tea ceremony become commonly practised. As the capital of city, many warlords, wealthy traders and literati gathered in Kyoto to enjoy sophisticated tea ceremonies by tea masters. With the demand for tea ceremony, many tea ceremony crafts and tea plantations where created.
In fact, the main tea ceremonies schools still have their headquarters in Kyoto, and many traditional tea shops remain in Kyoto where you can be present and appreciate real tea ceremonies.
Practise of mindfulness in Tea making
Tea is more than just a drink in Japan. It is a culture by itself focusing on purity, tranquility and harmony. This practise was advocated by tea master Sen no Rikyu (1522-1591), who was the favoured tea master of many, a powerful man in his days.
It was later researched that tea contains the amino acid, L-theanine, which promotes relaxation. Scientifically, drinking tea may promote a sense of mindfulness and it is suggested that it lowers the level of stress hormones.
The beginning of Western influences
From 1868 when the government moved from Kyoto to Tokyo (Edo), Kyoto slowly transforms to a modern city.
One example of a fusion between Japanese and Western fusion can be seen from Salon de Royal chocolate, which is founded in 1935 with a long-running history of chocolatiers. Having started at an era where chocolate was a luxury, Salon de Royal has built its name up since, producing chocolate of royal standards, mastering the art of chocolate making.
(Salon de Royal in 1935)
The result is a delectable fusion of cultures, where classic Western chocolates are infused with Japanese ingredients and environment.
In Kyoto summer, riverside dining (kawadoko) is a traditions that must be experienced if you visit this prefecture. And Salon de Royal's Kyoto cafe opens their riverside terrace for you to enjoy your desserts beside the river, enjoying the cool, gentle sound of streams.
Try this traditional chocolate from Kyoto: